tabletopgamedesign

Without spoiling Betrayal Legacy, there was a moment in my first game session where I realized: This game is actually playing me. It’s a testament to Rob Daviau’s genius, and while I’ve played hundreds of board games and card games, I still think about how no other game has gotten me in that same way.

That moment was fuelled by a brilliant violation of trust.

As players, we are used to trusting a game’s rules and instructions. Games need rules and order to work, which allows the games to provide the proper framework for a good experience.

But could it be possible to create a game where the rules and instructions themselves were unreliable? Could you create a game where not only do the players not trust each other, but they don’t even trust the game itself?

I think I’ve made some serious progress on this with my hilarious game of distrust, which I call One Card Bluff.

When you open the box, you’re immediately presented with a single card in a black sleeve, and a set of instructions. The instructions start with:

“You may notice that there is only one card in the box. It is the Ace of Spades. Or not.”

Immediately the player is set up with a suspicious situation. Is the card in that sleeve actually an Ace of Spades? What are the odds of it being an Ace of Spades? Is the card even a standard playing card? There’s no way to know until you open the sleeve, and that lack of knowing the odds is what makes the whole game possible.

The rules continue with

“All you can do is to try and convince your opponent that whatever card is in your hand is NOT the Ace of Spades.

You cannot show the face of the card until they decide that you are telling the truth or lying.”

If they are correct, you lose.

If they are incorrect, you win.”

Because the game has already sowed the seeds of distrust, it now presents the player with a ridiculous situation and they are restricted in how they can earn their way to victory. While they are required to make the same moves, they do have some freedom in how they play those moves.

If they look at the card inside and it is the Ace of Spades, they are still forced to make the case that the card is not the Ace of Spades. And to win, they must sell the lie.

If they look at the card inside and it is not the Ace of Spades, they are forced to tell the truth. But to win, they must fail at making their case.

The rules go on to say that if you win, you must use every means necessary to continue winning (including trickery and magic) which only continues to cement the feeling of distrust in the opposing player.

It has been truly incredible watching the gears turn in playtesters minds as they figure out how to play, and the game quickly turns into a masterclass in manipulation and utilizing confusion.

You’ll find more information, rules, and a mailing list signup at onecardbluff.com, and I’m happy to answer any questions people might have on it. I’ve really enjoyed seeing people interact with the game and it has become my goal to make the world’s greatest (and only?) Single-Card Game. Let me know what you think!

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